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China's charmed life



Published: Tue, August 14, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



China's charmed life

For an officially godless state, China certainly seems more than willing to meddle in matters of religion.

Last week, a senior Tibetan official revealed that the Chinese government is planning to decide who will succeed the Dalai Lama -- the self-exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama, 66, fled Tibet in 1959 -- 10 years after the Chinese invaded and shortly after a failed anti-Chinese uprising. He has been a thorn in the side of China ever since, a man of religion and peace whose quiet presence on the world stage is a daily reminder of China's brutal occupation of Tibet.

Yet even he has not been able to muster serious international opposition to China's rape of Tibet. For every thousand calls for Israel to cede its occupied territories to the Palestinians, there is perhaps one voice raised in the defense of Tibet. For every 10,000 condemnations of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, there is a passing comment or two on China's quiet extermination of Tibetan culture.

What gall: And now, China has the gall to tell the world in advance that it intends to co-opt Tibetan Buddhism, and the world shrugs and looks away.

China, of course, has no shortage of gall. It recently rejected an offer from the United States of $34,000 as compensation for its expenses after an American reconnaissance plane made an emergency landing in Chinese territory. China wants $1 million.

Consider what happened. A Chinese fighter pilot knocked an American plane out of the sky, China held 24 crewmen hostage for 11 days, made the United States chop up the plane in order to ship it home and then demanded compensation.

For the United States to pay even a penny will only embolden Beijing, just as the world's silence over China's past efforts to control Tibetan religious life have encouraged Chinese leaders to do as they please.

In 1995, the Dalai Lama named a 6-year-old & quot;soul boy & quot; as successor to the Panchen Lama, Tibet's second most important religious leader. Beijing rejected his choice and installed a child of its choosing. The Dalai Lama's choice has not been seen in public since.

Imagine if the Italian government started exercising a veto over the pope's choice of cardinals, and if those the pope named started disappearing. Would the world pretend not to see?

We doubt it. But very few countries live the charmed life that China does. Very few indeed.




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